For some unfortunate reason, when things don't go our way, we tend to gravitate toward finding blame.
I live in a house that was built in 1928. All attempts to sync technology with my home are challenging. Most walls are plaster, unwelcoming to nails. Every time I try to hang artwork, I hear chunks of plaster fall behind the wall, as a nail dangles at 45 degrees. When I change a light switch, disintegrated wire coating is revealed. My house is old. It is not easily compatible with change. I am a fool to blame the plaster if I am unable to hang a mirror. If I were to buy a Sonos system -- in hopes of controlling all lighting and electronics inside my house, remotely from my iPhone -- I would be naïve to believe that the system would work without significant rewiring, reconstruction.
People are like wires, too. We are conduits. Some are heavy duty extension cords, able to handle significant activity, while others have limited capacity. Just as I would not rely on an extension cord found in my living room to operate a two-megawatt generator, I do not expect a 65-year old owner of an NFL team to be naturally as understanding, as accepting of the concept of a gay player on his payroll. Further, I do not expect a player in his twenties, raised with religious beliefs which denounce homosexuality to be as understanding, accepting of a gay teammate as somebody who has gay friends or family, fearless of catching some disease.
Since Michael Sam came out publicly this Sunday, we have witnessed countless shots fired between gay rights advocates and those who do not support equality. I see anger. I see fear. I see a conflicted society. For what, though?
New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas told the New York Post yesterday that he's concerned an openly gay player will disrupt team chemistry, make some players uncomfortable.
"I can't speak for the NFL or our team or the locker room, I just know what goes on and what type of situation it's going to put a lot of guys in ... It puts a lot of pressure on certain people who don't want to be in that situation."
While these statements are offensive, I understand Thomas. But, I imagine Thomas has not spent much time thinking of the "situation it's going to (and, has forever) put a lot of guys in" for the players who happen to be gay - or have remained closeted.
"Being a believer in Christ, I certainly don't believe in it (homosexuality)", Thomas told the Post. "It's tough when you are put in this position," Thomas said. Well, Terrell, medicine is not supposed to taste good. For anybody.
Like a younger generation responsible to teach seemingly unwilling grandparents how to navigate Facebook, we have to show compassion and tolerance for those who do not understand what it means to be gay. Whether it is dealing with a man of generations past who owns an NFL team, or a player who seems out of touch with a progressive, equal society, we must recognize that we are no better than them, but that we have an opportunity to bring them on board. We should not blame Terrell Thomas for feeling as he does; these are his beliefs. We must recognize that our way of thought is not the only way. No man is immune to a need for tolerance. If we expect others to listen to us, we must be willing to hear them.
As Americans, we wonder how terrorists see our way of life as evil. Bigotry is a result of ignorance. Ignorance is erased by eduction. Because we can't effectively communicate the concept of freedom by dropping flyers from the sky, we tend to levy bombs and missiles instead. This is called war, a result of conflicting beliefs, usually based in religion. War - the most severe form of communication - opposed to say, football. A game. An activity. A sport, where people join forces to try to outscore their opponents.
We must understand that great change, a paradigm shift in thought takes considerable time. When I came out, I wanted everybody to be on board, happy for me and accepting of who I am. While it was frustrating at first, in time I learned that we cannot force our beliefs on others, expecting them to see the light, immediately.
Jackie Robinson is one of our great American heroes. Branch Rickey, too. Question: Were they celebrated at first? Did fans in Boston who cheered Bill Russell through one NBA title after another feel so rosy about this player who looked different -- when he first arrived? Some say that winning cures all. I believe that winning makes it easy to forget what was believed to be previous problems. Should it take Michael Sam making a game winning play that sends his team to the Super Bowl for skeptical or homophobic players, owners and management to accept him as an equal?
The next time you are bothered by a quote or soundbite from somebody rationalizing why the NFL isn't ready for a gay player, ask yourself how you could educate this person. How could you rewire an antiquated system to be compatible with today's world? What would you say that would make a detractor understand your point, without firing shots at his beliefs? It is all about education.
One society. One family. One team.
- Howard Bragman channels Dr. Seuss, declining all Michael Sam interview requests with a poem
- A letter from one dad to Michael Sam's dad: Learn to accept your gay son like I did
- Men's figure skating preview: Americans a long shot for medals
- Vladimir Putin hugs gold medal bisexual speedskater Irene Wüst
- Gay Missouri diver Greg DeStephen went from being outed and shunned to captain of swim team
- Former Nebraska kicker Eric Lueshen was openly gay while on the team
- Ryan in Russia: Rainbows near Sochi, and explaining football to Russians